The Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) announced Monday that the first charter flights to Turkey will be made on Sept. 2, adding that approximately 15 Russian companies are now ready to start charter flights, indicating that there has been a considerable increase in the demand for such flights to Turkey.
As soon as the draft legislation allowing charter flights to Turkey to resume was signed by the Russian government on Sunday, Russian tour operators began preparing to put tour packages to Turkey on sale. ATOR representatives also expressed that the association expects the flow of Russian tourists into Turkey to be moderate compared to peak season months, since the vacation season is about to come to an end.
The announcement also touched upon the lower cost of charter-flight tour packages, which are expected to drop by 20 to 30 percent, adding that the cost of such tour packages will be heavily dependent on the approach taken by Turkish hoteliers regarding hotel pricing.
On the other hand, Russia's travel ban has caused Turkey's tourism industry to lose what some estimate to be billions of dollars. The number of Russian tourists travelling to Turkey dropped by 93 percent compared to one year earlier. In early August, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğanmet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg to mend relations between the two countries, which lead to an agreement being reached for the resuming of charter flights between the countries.
This development caused a stir in the Turkish tourism sector. Turkish Hoteliers' Federation (TÜROFED) President Osman Ayık said that once charter flights resume, between 300,000 and 500,000 Russian tourists will visit Turkey annually. Pointing out that these numbers cannot be evaluated until an eight-to-nine month period has past, Ayık said approximately 350,000 Russian tourists have come to Turkey by charter flights so far, adding that this number could reach 800,000 by the end of the year.
An important step in 2017
Stressing that a charter permit is an important step for 2017, Ayık said tour operators can easily prepare. "It is really important to us that this permit be granted before plans for the next year are made. Our goal for 2017 is to catch up to the numbers for 2015." In 2015, 3.65 million Russian tourists came to Turkey.
On the other hand, relations between Russia and Turkey were previously frozen in November 2015 after Turkish jets downed a Russian Su-24 bomber near the Syrian border for violating Turkish airspace. Russia took harsh steps in the wake of this, imposing economic sanctions on Turkey, including a ban on tour packages and charter flights to Turkey.
President Erdoğan sent a letter to Putin to celebrate Russia Day, the national holiday of the Russian Federation. The letter was considered to be an important step towards normalization of ties between the two countries. Then, in late June, Putin signed a decree lifting restrictions on Russian tour firms working in Turkey, also eliminating other sanctions that had been put in place after the Russian jet crisis. Moreover, Erdoğan brought up the issue of the resumption of charter flights to Turkey during the meeting he held with Putin in St. Petersburg on Aug. 9.